Solution Saturday: How to Avoid “The Chosen One” Storylines


It is a storyline that has been recycled time and time again. An unsuspecting main character has always felt “different” from his or her peers. It turns out he or she is not only different, but even more dramatically, “chosen.” The world needs saving, and it’s up to him or her to do it.

There’s no choice in the matter. The choosing has already been done.

Have you, as a reader, ever craved a realistic story that tells of completely random, ordinary people stepping up to do something amazing without being asked for a change? Maybe not. But it does seem like a nice alternative to the characters who become heroes just because they were apparently destined to be.

If you want to try something a little different with your next plot, here are some ways you can keep it exciting and mysterious without a “chosen one” leading the rest of the world to victory.

Solution 1: Make your plot realistic, yet adventurous

Anything can happen in your story—sometimes though, within reason. It’s the unexplainable events and circumstances that cause us to lean on plot elements like “chosen one” characters, who are often for some reason the only ones who can solve an ongoing problem. Try making your story as realistic as possible, but keep it moving. Send your characters on an adventure without forcing yourself to use unrealistic elements to move it along.

This is just a starting point, to help you practice keeping a storyline moving without unrealistic elements. If you’re writing in the fantasy genre, for example, those elements will always be there. But it’s important to learn not to rely on unexplainable things like magic to craft a decent story before you allow yourself to get comfortable using them wisely.

Solution 2: Give your ordinary characters an extraordinary goal 

In real life, everyone has different skills, weaknesses and strengths. While one person might be better at one particular skill than another, no person is exceptionally gifted at everything, which puts everyone on an equal playing field with equal chance of failure or success.

Apply the same principle to your storyline. Instead of giving one character all the credit, split different worthy skills between a group of characters and have them all contribute to achieving the same goal—one that, ideally, none of them could have achieved alone.

Solution 3: Get rid of the all-knowing character

A favorite form of info dump in sci-fi, fantasy and adventure stories is the all-knowing character. He or she seems to have all the answers to our main characters’ questions, including how they can conquer their obstacles (or at least give them subtle hints as to how to do so).

The best way to avoid this cliché is to make everyone equally clueless, even the third-person narrator. No one knows what the future holds or knew that the events that have occurred would happen before they happened. Leave out talk of prophesies. There will be characters who will know things your MC doesn’t, but even they should, in these circumstances, have limits to their overall spectrum of knowledge.

All this being said, there’s nothing wrong with “chosen ones.” We love them, and probably always will. But not every single story needs to have one. Think of The Hunger Games here. In the end, everyone had to work as a team to restore some kind of reasonable order between the districts. Katniss became the Mockingjay later on in the story because of choices she made, not choices made for her.

Give “the chosen one” storyline a rest. See what you can do without it before your brain comes up with a story that requires one (which does happen, and that’s okay). You might surprise yourself.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.